The Philadelphia Experiment.
By Fahim ‘Coach Fah” Nassar
A few years ago, I took my wife to Philadelphia for her birthday weekend. She is a HUGE fan of the Rocky series. I didn’t realize how much she wanted to see the city. We lived in New Jersey for at least a decade or so and I was amazed to learn she had never gone and always wished to. Me being the dutiful husband, once I learned of the tremendous faux pax I immediately arranged to rectify that situation.
I fell in love with Philly many years before. As a member of Okayplayer.com, I experienced Philadelphia from an organic, natural level. The music is soulful, the city is vibrant with historical and cultural reverence, and the people are some of the best I have ever encountered. Needless to say, it is one of my favorite cities.
It pains me that we must have an uncomfortable conversation with you, City of Philadelphia, especially about your beloved Seventy-Sixers. But alas, I must.
Seven years ago, you and Sam Hinkie sold your city a ‘Brooklyn Bridge scenario’. You sold them on not only a losing season, but a losing way of life that would lead to the promised land. The team was one year removed from Andre Igoudala. After countless lottery pick misses with names such as Michael Carter-Williams, Glen Rice, Jr., K. J. McDaniels, Jerami Grant, Elfrid Payton, Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Markelle Fultz, Furkan Korkmaz, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, Landry Shamet, Mikal Bridges to name a few, mounting losing seasons, and dwindling ticket prices; it seemed like a desolate hole that could not be filled.
The organization did not miss entirely. They seemed to hit the most ‘smashingest’ of homeruns with draft picks Joel Embiid (number three overall, 2014) and Ben Simmons (number one overall, 2016). Embiid’s play was awe-inspiring and his personality was infectious. Joel’s infamous ‘trust the process’ moniker was embraced by fan and NBA community alike. Once the organization added a sprinkle of veteran wisdom and some journeymen hungry to win, the Brett Brown era, which started in 2013 was headed to the promised land. and Or so we thought.
There was a fevered pitch of anticipation during the 2018-19 season which ended in tears, especially for Embiid, who had endured persecution for his work habits and conditioning on more than a few occasions. Ben Simmons was not spared ire, as his continued hesitance to stretch the floor with outside shooting hampered an already congested floor.
The 2019-20 brought Covid-19 and another disappointing season for the 76ers. The weather changed quickly from Always Sunny to Dark Shadows. The inclement climate became great and tumultuous and the impact, mighty. Brett Brown did not survive the storm.
In the wake of the hurricane of the NBA Bubble, Darryl Morey, former general manager for the Houston Rockets became president of the team. So far, Elton Brand, who in my opinion has only strengthened the decline of the roster, has been retained. The head coaching duties have befallen the one and only Glen ‘Doc’ Rivers, who despite climatic failures at the most crucial times in the playoffs, has had a successful career to this point.
This is clearly the end of ‘The Process’ and I do not know if this was Sam Hinkie’s vision or not, but like the steak meat in a traditional Philly cheese, that jawn is done.
Was it a success? That is a debate I will let my Philadelphians have. Will the foundation remain? Or will a swashbuckling president influence a general manager with ice skates on holding Adrian’s hand, halfway falling down, hoping the Zamboni driver does not interrupt his groove, to make a blockbuster move?
What say you Philly? Is Doc the remedy that ails? Will your homegrown roots mature and grow into the blossoms you know them to be? Will it be Simmons, or Embiid, that ends up the sacrificial lamb on the stone table?
Only time will tell. But you at least deserve to know.